Blackpaint 410 – Surprise at the Size; Sex, Death and Lemons


“Keep Your Timber Limber” at the ICA

When I saw this advertised as an exhibition of drawings, I assumed the timber in the title referred to a pencil.  Wrong; or perhaps metaphorically right. The first thing you see – hard to avoid double entendres here – is a drawing of a huge, hairy penis and balls across an entire wall, resembling a cannon and with “Moral Injury” along the shaft and “Fucked by Numbers” beneath it.  It’s by Judith Bernstein, and conflates the act of fucking and being fucked – ridiculous to use less direct vocabulary –  with the casualties and destruction of the Iraq and Afganistan (sic) wars, as well as Vietnam, to which it originally referred.

As a piece of visual propaganda, it’s pretty much dried out now and fails to carry a frisson beyond the initial surprise at the size; the two activities linked here – killing and having sex – seem to me, and hopefully to most people, to be not the same – mutually exclusive even (despite common parlance and psychoanalysis).

There are a number of small drawings in pretty inks by Margaret Harrison, depicting women in scanty clothing, rather like seaside postcards, one of whom is the filling in a sandwich and another of whom has a lemon between her legs (cf. Urs Fischer’s carrot, last blog).

Harrison

I found them rather erotic, but I don’t think that was reaction the artist intended.  I was reminded of the exhibition of feminist art since the 70s that I saw at the Pompidou Centre a couple of years ago (see previous Blackpaint); I found most of the works there erotic too.  A piece in the Guardian Review this week on Nora Ephron referred to her remark about her husband’s affairs; “He would have sex with a venetian blind”.  This was quoted as a brilliant put-down – but I can’t imagine many men being insulted.

The male input was rather more direct – Cary Kwok had three drawings showing a Hassidic Jew, a Buddhist monk and a Catholic priest dripping with semen from their own masturbatory efforts; Tom of Finland had his pictures of bikers engaged pleasurably in the act – strange how the genitalia on show were rather undersized; maybe copied from Greek and Renaissance sculpture?  Limber timber everywhere.

There were some great fashion plates by Antonio Lopez and a George Grosz cartoon – I have to say I agree with Adrian Searle, that none of the various elements seem to go with each other. They’re all drawings, arguably – but beyond that?

R Crumb

Actually, the Harrison pictures, and the Toms and Kwoks, reminded me faintly of Robert Crumb – but probably only because of the “transgressive” material and the drawing skill displayed.  Seeing Crumb’s work at the Guggenheim recently caused me to think of some literature I’d like to see illustrated by him; a collected works of Jane Austen, perhaps…

Sweet Tooth

Writing about this Ian McEwan novel in last blog, I was wondering how many other examples, there were, apart from Joyce’s Penelope in Ulysses, of male authors writing in the 1st person from a woman’s point of view.  I came up with Defoe’s Moll Flanders and on the net, found references to Richardson’s Clarissa and Allan Gurganus’ “Oldest Living Confederate Widow Tells All”.   Maybe also bits of Dracula.  Not many then; and I hadn’t finished “Sweet Tooth” when I last wrote – there’s a twist at the end which gives McEwan a safety net.

Visions of Light

Fantastic film about the history of cinematography, with one beautiful example after another, interspersed with interviews that actually give you some insight, rather than just slowing up the excerpts.  Fascinating to see Nestor Almendros (Malick’s “Days of Heaven”); he’s the image of Romolo Valli, the fussy hotelier in “Death in Venice”.

My current favourite cinematographer, or director of photography as they now appear to be called, is Ed Rutherford of “Archipelago” (director, Joanna Hogg); apparently, it was his first film.  Much more on this great film next blog – I’ve done it before (see Blackpaint 359) , but just bought and watched the DVD through twice.

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Blackpaint

Atlantic Bar

5.09.13

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